Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gaza In Context

by Shenell M. Albert

In the past week, the conflict surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian occupation has escalated tremendously. A quick review of the international response to the conflict outlines the stark contrast amongst the opposing opinions of the United States' mainstream media and the rest of the world. The absence of any sort critical speech towards Israel is revolting. Despite everything we have heard in the media - Palestinians, by natural law and by the societal laws drafted by international bodies (UN, Geneva Convention, etc) of which Israel is a part of; are defending themselves against an occupying force. I feel in writing these types of pieces it's hard to be anti-Zionist without being considered anti-Semitic (there's been pretty successful propagating of that idea by the Zionists so far). Once you buy into the idea that Judaism=Israel then it's easy to settle into the concept of the sins of the Zionists are the sins of the Jews are the sins of the Israelis. These arguments force me into this sort of false tri-chotomy of extremes that I am very uncomfortable with.

So far, 450 Palestinians have been killed with more than 2000 injured. Over the past 7 years, approximately 15 Israelis have been killed compared to 5000 Palestinians. The Zionists are fighting an army of mostly untrained militants with homemade bombs that you and I could make in our garages while Israel attacks civilians with Apache helicopters and F-16 bombers purchased with the $15 million we give them per day (not a typo). All this while they violate 66 UN resolutions and ignore IAEA regulations. They claim these attacks are retaliatory actions for the breaking of the cease-fire agreement chartered in June 2008, but do not concur that they did not completely obey any of the cease-fire regulations from the day of its founding. In fact, the most intense violation of the cease-fire occurred on November 4th 2008, a day when all international eyes were cast on the American Presidential election, Israeli forces assassinated 6 members of Hamas.

The first stipulation of the cease-fire (Israel would drastically reduce its military blockade of Gaza) was completely ignored. Inhabitants of Gaza were forced to eat grass, denied vital medications, denied fuel, and most importantly denied food. UNRWA convoys as well as supplies sent to Gaza by the European Union were all denied entry. Did the United States protest? No! In September 2007, American academics condemned British calls for the boycotting of Israeli universities but the world remains silent at the bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza (another UN violation). In Gaza, you cannot travel across the border in either direction without Israeli permission. I have listened to nauseating accounts from friends who have been beaten by the IDF.

I am trying hard to not come off vitriolic but something needs to be done. If we go as far back as Abraham we find that the region we know as Israel is the land of the Canaanites thus rightfully belongs to the Palestinians. On the other hand, genetic analyses are mostly null and void in this context when you consider any Palestinian whose great-great-grandmother was raped by a Crusader could be genetically (Jewish) it deflates the idea. In the historical context, there is much to be said of the responsibilities of the former occupying imperial power, Great Britain.

In 1917, Britain established the Balfour declaration after much prodding from a Zionist organization in Britain who called for the creation of a Jewish state after the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. When Britain received the mandate over Palestine, they created Jordan and planned to split the remaining territories between the Jews and the Arabs. When Palestinians got word of this they rejected any part of the mandate including Zionist representation - a move that has been historically considered to be proof of Palestinian anti-Semitism when it was only a defensive maneuver. At this point, Jewish immigration already begun, and the Arabs responded by rioting. It is important to note both Jews and Arabs quietly coexisted in Palestine before the migration. The British, to counteract Arab rioting, passed the "Passfield White Paper" which allowed for no more than 15,000 Jews to migrate to Palestine every year for five years. In the brief period of migration that occurred before the passing of the "Passfield White Paper", there was considerable upsetting to the economic stability in Palestine. Immigrants formed numerous collectives and adapted many Judo-centric policies including Jews-only hiring, etc. After WWII and the Holocaust, the "White Paper" was still in effect, but former migrants in Palestine organized mass illegal immigration campaigns to bring displaced Jews in Europe to Palestine. Though the "White Paper" prevented millions from coming into Palestine, under its rule hundreds of thousands still entered.

In 1945, the US and the UN, concerned for the remaining survivors of the Holocaust, (both the US and Britain refused to open their country to Jewish immigrants at this time) put considerable pressure on Great Britain to open Palestine for immigration. They finally conceded and the resulting anger led to the formation of the UN partition plan. At that time in Palestine, there were 1.2 million Arabs versus 600,000 Jews with only 8% of the land being owned by the Jewish. In the face of this clear population disparity, the UN partition plan gave Israel approximately 50% of the land.

Despite all of the transgressions branded in this history, let us consider that an Israeli who is born an Israeli cannot help that fact and cannot help that injustices may have been committed for him or her to be born an Israeli; by the same token a Palestinian is born into his or her world without choice. We become what we are by what we do, not by who our distant ancestors were. And it is precisely in this respect that today's Israel sins grievously, regardless of fantastical divine rights granted by scribes or the historical political rights granted by guilt-ridden European politicians. For it is in the simple lack of human compassion, the adamant refusal to accept the tragic historical circumstance of the people alongside whom destiny has placed the Jews of Israel (which mirrors their own prior and current tragedy), the cynical manipulation of Palestinian acts of despair to "justify" the systematic destruction of a people, their land, their history, their culture, their very ability to live lives that we could call acceptably human, that the political class of Israel, and their supporters and enablers at home and abroad, in the U.S., Europe, the Arab lands, and anywhere else, deserve the harshest reprobation that we in our unbowed consciences reserve for them. May history prove more clement to them than they have been to their victims.

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